When I first got my learner’s permit, my mother took me to our high school parking lot and let me putter around in her pea-green Ford Pinto wagon. On one empty stretch, a giant object that looked like a brown paper bag sat in the middle of the road.
“Make sure you drive around that because you don’t know what it is,” I remember her calmly telling me.
I was 15. Of course, I kept driving at it.
“Go around it! Go around it!” she began yelling frantically, waving her arms.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a paper bag,” I shrugged as I drove over the top of it.
It was a rock.
It was also the last time my mother let me drive her car.
I think about that moment — and long, sticky summer days spent afterward in driver’s ed classes — every time my 15-year-old daughter begs me to let her drive. She got her learner’s a few months ago. We’ve barely made it out of the driveway.
On the few forays we’ve ventured down our street, I’ve violated every basic rule of parental driving instruction, starting with “don’t yell at your child” and “keep the mood light.”
She's a good student, a sensible girl and not prone to stupid stunts. Yet the thought of her getting behind the wheel of a two-ton piece of machinery at 60 miles per hour terrifies me. Even if she drives responsibly, what about all the other wacka-doodles on the road?
I’ve made the mistake of looking for advice online, where I’ve found such disquieting facts as: “ Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens by far, on the order of five times more than poisoning or cancer.”
Some of the tips are clearly out of my realm, such as the Popular Mechanics guide that urges parents to help their kids learn to deal with crisis by turning parking lot donuts. This is the same guide that advises if an animal runs in the car’s path, we should encourage the new driver to avoid personal injury by hitting the critter. (These writers clearly have never seen the size of South Florida roadkill.)
I’m worried that I won’t remember all the wisdom I should be passing on. (Is it 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock? Or 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock?)
Public transit is looking better and better.
Who taught you how to drive and will you do the same for your kids?